Friday, July 10, 2009

The Tenure Binder

Well, I cleaned my office the other day and while I cannot say I'm joyous, I do feel less like a giant rock is sitting on my soul every time I sit at my computer! Thanks to everyone for encouraging to just take the time and do it. Of course, after the cleaning, the grant writing flurry hit high speed and now I need to buy a can of grant-be-gone. Part of my funk this summer is that while I'm not mole-whacking, I am not spending my time the way I wanted. Everything I'm doing right now is super important and relevant to my career, but it's not the same as doing science, which is - afterall - why I got into this biz.

An example of my conundrum is the current albatross hanging around my neck: the tenure packet.  Obviously, this is something that has to get done, regardless of my preferences. Here, we submit a binder, and it has been sitting in my office staring at me like this:


Like Harry Potter's Monster Book of Monsters, I strongly suspect some of the destruction in my office is due to it running around shredding my shit.

I have a number of frustrations with my Monster Binder. My main angst comes from the self-assessment letters. I have to write a letter assessing my qualifications for tenure. I have to write a statement assessing my research program. I have to write another statement assessing my teaching program. All of these are separate 2-page documents that I need to generate that are apparently "super important". Dude. The thing I find funny about all the self-assessment letters is the implicit assumption that I'm trustworthy to assess my own worth. Does anyone really write self-assessment letters that say: "I'd love to get tenure, but you and I both know from my current record that I would immediately stop publishing, only show up to teach classes and be a pain in the ass in faculty meetings, and generally spend the remainder of my time investing in whatever hobby actually brings joy to my life"?

Another frustration is with assembling all the damn documentation -which often comes with weird and esoteric explanations/demands from the higher administration. For example, I need to document that my students "learned" in my classes. However, grades don't count. I need to show "product". I teach a 170 person lecture class with no TA help. My "product" for that class is 170 scantrons X 4 exams X 3 sections. The spiteful, petty part of me wants to simply hole punch 2,040 scantrons and shove them into my binder.

My final frustration stems from the fact that I've talked (off the record) with everyone from my PNT committee to a member of the central committee (faculty don't vote here on tenure), and I have been told that as long as my student evaluations aren't horrific, no one will even look at all that stuff....but it better be there. What?! You mean I could spend 4 hours hole punching my 2,040 scantrons and no one would even look at them? Shocking.

Ah well, enough complaining. Those scantrons are not going to hole-punch themselves!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Well, I did it. I submitted my grants yesterday. I cannot tell you what a feeling of freedom and relief I feel! I have now submitted five grants while pregnant - often multiples at a time. For those of you wondering what it feels like to write five grants while teaching large lecture classes, doing research, mentoring students, serving on budget crisis committees, and being pregnant ...well, pictures speak a thousand words:


Doable with a little creativity. On that note, I have to admit that I never realized how much hard work went into gestating. I've been trying to decide how many publications gestation alone should be worth on my CV. I'm leaning right now toward 5-ish. One day, I'd love to serve on a search committee and say: "Look, in 2015 Dr. Amazing had 2 papers in Ecology and a baby. That is some sick-ass fucking productivity". (Sadly, I think it is much more likely that I will be able to get away with saying "sick-ass fucking" than count a baby as scientific productivity).

Anyway, I'm hoping that I will now be liberated enough to start blogging with more regularity since I will no longer be feeling like this:


Where I'm the one on the left and my proposals are on the right.

Good luck to those of you racing to finish your proposals for upcoming deadlines!